This website summarises the work of a mixed-methodology, international research project, Work, Retirement and Wellbeing, funded by the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) Cross-Council Programme (Grant ES/L002884/1). The LLHW funding partners for this award are the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council. The study began in March 2014.


Alongside population ageing and falling demographic support ratios, an early retirement culture has arisen among men. Downward employment participation trends have reversed in recent years but have not returned to levels previously seen. These trends have raised concerns about poverty, skills shortages and fiscal imbalances. Pension reform and extending working life (EWL), up to and beyond state pension age, have therefore become policy priorities. There are, however, concerns in relation to the EWL agenda which raise the prospect of (a) health risks for some groups and the possibility that declining retirement ages and rising life expectancy are not independent and (b) labour market marginalisation later in life as older workers search for jobs that better meet their needs and circumstances.

Focus of the study

Against this background of ageing workforces and delayed retirement the study consists of 4 work packages, unified by a focus on the maintenance of health and wellbeing among older workers.  Overarching objectives of the project are to (a) promote understanding of health and wellbeing later in life – both in the workplace and as people make the transition to retirement and (b) examine later life labour markets including: the policies that shape patterns of employment; the role of phased retirement opportunities; job quality; labour market marginalisation; and reverse retirement. To meet these objectives the study is divided into 4 work packages.

  • WP1 explores extended working life issues from a macro perspective – examining the range of measures implemented by governments to both prolong employment and mitigate potential adverse effects by means of polices which enable, for example: flexible working, phased retirement or job mobility to improve person-job fit.
  • WP2a uses international harmonized datasets (SHARE, ELSA and HRS) to estimate the health and wellbeing impacts of later life employment, comparing ‘matched’ individuals who have ‘retired’ with those who continue to work.
  • WP2b qualitatively explores health related behaviour change over the work/retirement transition period – using a longitudinal design to investigate the mechanisms associated with the health and wellbeing/retirement link. The study compares individuals transitioning to retirement in three distinct contexts (in terms of culture, labour market and welfare regime) – USA, England and Italy, examining retirement aspirations, orientations and outcomes (including work related).
  • WP3 focuses on the workplace to investigate workplace policies and practices which may be associated with wellbeing and satisfaction, exploring how and whether impacts differ among different age groups and whether particular practices may therefore impede or promote extended working lives.
  • WP4 examines later life labour markets to assess: the marginalisation hypothesis; whether phased retirement opportunities extend working life; job quality and the accommodation of older workers; and the phenomenon of reverse retirement.